Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Fava Beans from the Farmer's Market

It seems like every town in California has at least one farmer's market. Sacramento has several markets to choose from, and this week I went to a small Saturday morning market. The number of vendors are few, but the people who frequent the market take time shopping, as they meander from vendor to vendor and say hello to other shoppers. When I saw these fava beans, I wondered out loud if it might be too late in the season for them. The woman next to me commented that her mother served fava beans throughout the season. As a lover of recipes, I asked how she best enjoyed them, and she responded that the Portuguese way is to serve them as a warm salad with a dab of butter and a sprinkle of fresh mint. I've often seen fava bean recipes with mint, and asked her if she thought that mint might be the herb of choice or if Portuguese are especially fond of writing recipes. We laughed together when she said that all of the cooks in her Portuguese family love to write down and share their recipes! Whichever it is, it's always exciting to meet people at the farmer's market and share our different culinary histories.

Here's my favorite way with fava beans.

Warm Fava Beans


2 pounds fava beans

1/2 cup chicken stock

1 tsp butter

1 tsp olive oil

1 tsp chopped, fresh savory (or fresh mint)

salt and pepper to taste


Fava beans need to be shelled twice, which is why you won't see them served very often. However, you can make shelling beans fun, especially if you have young children, or a group of freinds, to help you. Bring the chicken stock to a boil while you're shelling the beans. Once the beans are shelled, add them to the stock and cook, uncovered, for about three minutes. Remove the beans from the stock, leaving the stock simmering in the pan until it is reduced to 2 Tablespoons. Let the beans cool, then pinch each bean out of it's tough skin. Return the shelled beans to the reduced stock, add the butter, olive oil, and herbs, letting the sauce heat until combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Serves 4

Stealthy Cooking Tip: These delicious beans have a mild flavor, so they're frequently enjoyed by those who don't usually like beans. Also, because they're unusual, they might not already be on an "I don't like them" list. Sometimes new foods can be sneaked in to a picky eater's diet, much to everyone's surprise. In addition, if you've got young children (or spouses) who are picky eaters, try this tact. Have them go with you to the market and help pick out, or photograph, the food items. Then have them help with the fun parts of the food preparation. This trick may make them more agreeable to eating them.

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